Goldie and the Gingerbreads
Goldie & the Gingerbreads was an all-female American rock band from 1962 to 1967, consisting of three musicians and a singer. They were the first all-female rock band signed to a major record label.
Whereas most female bands were ignored by the big record labels and rarely attracted live audiences, the quartet, consisting of Genya “Goldie” Zelkowitz (later Genya Ravan), Ginger Bianco, Margo Lewis, and Carol MacDonald, was among the first to break into a domain dominated by men. They were signed to Decca in 1963 and to Atlantic in 1964.
In 1962, Genya Zelkowitz (who would eventually change her last name to Ravan–her better-known last name when she was the lead singer of the band Ten Wheel Drive) first met Ginger Panabianco in a New York City club when Zelkowitz was the lead singer of Richard Perry‘s band The Escorts Panabianco was on stage, performing as the drummer for one of Perry’s friends. The discovery of a female drummer inspired in Genya Ravan the idea of an all-female rock band. The name of the would-be band was decided upon rapidly: Goldie was the name by which Ravan’s mother chose to call her after their arrival in the United States from post-war Poland, while gingerbread was a play on Ginger’s name.
Richard Perry and the other members of The Escorts were college students. When the summer concert season ended, Genya and Ginger began to look for a pianist and soon recruited Carol O’Grady. Finding a female guitarist turned out to be much harder. Various ad-hoc recruits filled in as and when required, but when they accompanied Chubby Checker on his 1962 concert tour of West Germany and Switzerland, they performed without a guitarist. Organist Margo Lewis, who turned out to be the group’s third permanent member, replaced O’Grady and performed with the group on the Chubby Checker tour. The following year, Goldie and the Gingerbreads found guitarist and vocalist Carol MacDonald, who at the time was signed to Atlantic/Atco Records, and she became the fourth permanent band member.
The group’s first release on the Spokane Records label was titled “Skinny Vinnie”. Although credited to Zelkowitz and Stan Green, the song was in fact the Bill Haley composition “Skinny Minnie” with slight lyric changes.
The Mods and Rockers Ball
In 1964, fashion photographer and director Jerry Schatzberg threw a party for the Warhol Superstar Baby Jane Holzer that was later referred to by writer Tom Wolfe as “the Mods and Rockers ball, the party of the year.” Goldie and the Gingerbreads were booked to provide the musical entertainment and impressed the assembled attendees with both their music and their inimitable presence. Among the guests at this fashionable and well-attended event were The Rolling Stones and Ahmet Ertegün, the chairman of Atlantic Records, who promptly signed them to the label.
The Gingerbreads in Europe
Later in 1964, the band met Eric Burdon and The Animals, whose manager contracted the Gingerbreads for a tour in England. These standard group tours were arranged by record companies to showcase their roster of talent and the Gingerbreads were one of up to six bands on the tour, performing on the same bill night after night in small towns. In Britain, they toured with The Rolling Stones, The Animals, The Beatles, The Yardbirds, The Hollies and The Kinks, among others.
Troubles with British working visa requirements led to the band performing dates in West Germany (where many UK and US troops were then stationed as part of the NATO defences) at venues including the Star-Club in Hamburg while they waited for their British work permits to come through.
A subsequent appearance in Paris at the Olympia earned Goldie & The Gingerbreads a favourable introduction to the French music scene, despite technical difficulties that arose during the performance.
The politics of popular music
Throughout the early 1960s, when Goldie and the Gingerbreads toured extensively throughout North America. Club and venue promoters were not so much interested in their music as in the excitement that an all-female musical group caused.
Goldie and the Gingerbreads did have one single, “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat“, that reached No. 25 on the UK Singles Chart in 1965. Although the single was also released in the United States, a recording of the same song by the heavily promoted Herman’s Hermits was released with great fanfare just two weeks prior to the Gingerbreads’ release, thus fatally undermining the Gingerbreads’ chances for their first hit single in the U.S.
Over the course of 1967 and 1968, Goldie and the Gingerbreads gradually broke up. They returned to the United States in an attempt to garner success, but failed. Genya Ravan’s strong personality and forceful leadership of the band has been cited as a major factor in the band’s split. Frustration due to making little profit from their record releases may also have been an issue.
Genya Ravan went on to form Ten Wheel Drive. She now hosts two radio shows in Little Stevens Underground Garage Siriux/XM Goldies Garage and Chicks and Broads. Ravan’s memoirs, entitled Lollipop Lounge: Memoirs of a Rock and Roll Refugee, were published in 2004 by Billboard Books.
Margo Lewis joined her ex-bandmates in 1974. Along with being an accomplished musician, Lewis is owner and president of Talent Consultants International, Ltd., a talent booking agency in New York, and is partner in Talent Source, Ltd, which manages the estate of Bo Diddley. Lewis toured with Diddley not only as his personal manager, but also as his keyboard player for the last 10 years of Diddley’s life.
In 2011, Goldie and The Gingerbreads were recognized by the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame.
On November 13, 1997, the Gingerbreads performed once more to mark their 30th anniversary and to commemorate the release of The Rolling Stone Book of Women in Rock. Accompanying Genya, Ginger and Margo was Debby Hastings on bass and Diane Scanlon on guitar.
On February 3, 1998, Goldie and The Gingerbreads were presented with a Touchstone Award from NY based Women in Music. This distinction is given to women who “have the courage and inspiration to make a difference in the music industry and whose work has set new standards.”. At the awards ceremony, the statuettes were presented to each member of the group by music legend Ahmet Ertegun.
Although several other musicians played with Goldie & the Gingerbreads over the years, permanent members were:
- Genya Ravan – vocals, percussion. sax drums 
- Ginger Bianco – drums, percussion
- Margo Lewis – organ, keyboards 
- Carol MacDonald (joined 1963) – guitar and background vocals – MacDonald died on March 12, 2007.
- Skinny Vinnie / Chew Chew Fee Fi Fum – (1964), SPOKANE 45-4005
- That’s Why I Love You / What Kind of Man Are You – (1965), ATCO 45-6354
- Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat / Little Boy – (1965), DECCA 12070
- That’s Why I Love You / The Skip – (1965), DECCA 12126
- Sailor Boy / Please Please – (1966), DECCA 12199
- Look For Me Baby – (1966), DECCA
- Think About The Good Times / Please Please – (1966), ATCO 45-6427
- Walking in Different Circles / Song of the Moon – (1967), ATCO 45-6475
- Think About the Good Times – FONTANA 693